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Charles Taylor Agrees to Leave Office on August 11 - 2003-08-02

Liberian President Charles Taylor has agreed to step down from office on August 11. The announcement follows a meeting with west African envoys representing the regional body ECOWAS.

ECOWAS representatives have secured a date for President Charles Taylor's departure from office. The announcement was made by Ghanaian Foreign Minister Nana Akufo-Addo after a meeting with President Taylor Saturday afternoon.

While negotiations took place Saturday, gunfire continued in Monrovia as government and rebel forces clashed again in more heavy fighting.

The ECOWAS envoys arrived in Monrovia Friday, and were expecting to hold meetings with President Taylor that same day, but he failed to turn up. Mr. Taylor was reportedly in Liberia's second city, Buchanan, where government forces were tackling a rebel offensive.

In Monrovia Saturday, machine gun and rifle fire broke out around mid-morning, and Liberian government forces were reported to have stormed three key bridges to open the way for an attack on a key port held by rebels.

At an ECOWAS summit Thursday, member states originally called for President Taylor's departure from office and from Liberia within three days of peacekeepers arriving in the country.

Since that announcement, Liberian ministers have stressed the need for an interim government to be put in place as well as the peacekeepers before President Taylor leaves office.

Nigeria, the biggest power in the region, is providing the bulk of the peacekeeping force. Some 1500 Nigerian troops are expected in Monrovia Monday, to begin peacekeeping operations.

Nigeria has also offered President Taylor asylum.

Although August 11 has been given for President Taylor's relinquishment of power, there was no confirmation as to exactly when he would be leaving the country.

Mr. Taylor has made repeated promises to leave Liberia when peacekeepers are installed. However, rebel leaders have remained openly skeptical of the president's intentions.